A Simple Swing

I love the cartoon depicted below:

If you chuckled, then read on!

First off, let me say that this cartoon has been with me throughout my academic, co-op and professional career and it is currently posted on my whiteboard at Emerson where I am a Product Development Engineer. It will never go down and since the time I first saw it, countless people have asked for copies and it constantly reminds me on the importance of communication.

I love the bottom middle frame where the service engineers installed the swing by cutting the tree at the base and placing stilts to prop it up! Unnecessary? Yeah, I would think so as well. In fact, in my line of work, I have seen things like this take place where the most obvious and simple solution to a task or problem get lost in a maze of unneeded complexity.

What does this cartoon mean and why is it so important to me? Simple. It basically reminds me that multiple functions come together to effectively deliver something to a customer whether it is a product or a service. We all play a part in each function but we sometimes lose focus on exactly what it is we are doing and why. If we know these things in detail and see the “big picture” it improves the chances of a successful delivery of either the product or service.

We have all seen and/or worked with that “one function” where it only cares about what it does and couldn’t care less why it is doing it and what the end result should be. What does this lead to? Frustration! Because that function perceives the end product or service to be totally different than what was actually requested. This is because there are no working links in the relationship between the functions delivering and receiving the deliverable.

By the way, the basis of this cartoon along with working links are all studied carefully and analyzed through numerous case studies in an excellent course called Organizational Behavior (MBA 870) taught in the summer. In fact, this course has been the most valuable for me thus far because it made me realize that we can all be technical professionals and know our “stuff” inside and out but if we can’t communicate and get things done our talent for knowing our “stuff” means nothing.

So the next time you wonder about all the hoops you unnecessarily had to jump through for a customer, maybe it was because you didn’t have to because the customer only wanted a simple swing!